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sábado, 1 de enero de 2011

Interview to EDOWAN BERSMA a multimedia henchman ninja master

During some months I have been waiting for the moment to publish the interview Mr Edowan Bersma kindly granted to me last June. Besides, Mr Bersma & I continued many conversations about his career at IFD, Filmark & other Hong Kong productions till today. What I mean is I contacted him as a fan of the movies he starred 23 years ago and our continuous conversations ended on a mutual friendship plus the high respect I have developed to his persona. That's why I decided to keep the following interview in my computer file & publish it today as a Happy New Year present to all my friends & readers of this blog.

Edowan Bersma also sent me a lot of pics taken while he was shooting on set & It is stated above they are copyrighted to his owner. If anyone may use them, please name the source.


A dutch man goes Hong Kong to became a ninja master

-To start with, could you tell us a bit about you and your life before you went to Asia?
After my Army service, I had worked as Immigrant Teacher in Holland, volunteer in a Kibbutz in Israel, ‘Jack of all trades in Downunder & New Zealand, English teacher in Taiwan, Thailand and Japan where I made friends from around the globe – kick starting my global travel search. Met some inspiring girls on the train in Java/Indonesia, intriguing me with their Hong Kong Kung Fu stories.

-What led you to move to Hong Kong, and how did you then entered the movie world?
After 6 more months of traveling SE-Asia I made it to – at that time – the Mecca of Kung Fu – Hong Kong. After staying in several Chungking Mansions hostels, I got connected to the right people, and started my 1st Kung Fu part one month from entering Hong Kong.

-During the 80's, it seems there were good opportunities for White or Black Westerners to appear in movies in HK and in other Asian countries, which film industries were then flourishing. How many films have you been working on?
All in all I did just about 200x Ninja movies, some hard core Kung Fu scenes, and small part acting roles in Taipan/partially shot in Southern China, Noble House/HK, Good Morning Vietnam + Saigon/both shot in Thailand, Project A part II as well as the Armour of God /both Jackie Chan – Golden Harvest productions, amongst others.
IFD, Jackie Chan, Tsui Hark, Ninja, soldier, henchman..Edowan is the man!

-On IFD or Filmark productions, White or Black guys were usually employed to make the film look like an American made production. Most of the Western faces you see in these films were tourists, students or backpackers from Chungking Mansion with no experience in acting. It seems you, at least, had some genuine experience in martial arts. What are your martial skills, and how useful was it on those films?
Mine were based on teenager weekly JUDO training, and a mix of Kung Fu styles which I quickly learnt on the set, tailor made to ‘camfu’ as we called it, in order to make it look better on camera/ video.

-You notably worked with director Godfrey Ho and producer Joseph Lai (IFD) on at least 3 films, entitled Advent Commando 3: Dressed to fire, Thunder of gigantic serpent & Zodiac America: the SuperMaster ( aka Zombie Vs Ninja). What are your memories of these films, Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai? Would you have any anecdotes from the shooting of each one, about the working methods for instance? How much did you got paid on that film?
Quite frankly, we seldom knew the script, or who we were supposed to portray. Only in Godfrey’s or Lai’s bigger budget movies we were given a script + direction where to take it, with more girls on the set. In general we were the Hollywood reverse – ‘gweiloos’ (=foreign devils) playing as bad guys. I became an expert in dying / or getting killed.

-I suppose you know IFD & Filmark used asian movies & then pasted some new shots into them for the international video markets.Were you aware about the cut & paste working methods used by IFD when shooting your parts?
Not at the time, but often afterwards we did. More because some of the movie shots on set only lasted 2-3 days, before the next movie (different outfits) showed its face.

Edowan Bersma played several & different supporting roles at IFD's Advent commando series till he got a main role in the 3rd chapter Advent Commando 3: dressed to fire

I saw you in a supporting role in IFD's Advent Commando 7: Guns to heaven, the "good boy" is Bryan Baker, he played against Chow Yun Fat in Tiger on the beat & the bad boy is Mike Abbott. Did you work with Mike Abbott in more movies?
I had almost forgotten about Bryan Baker - some good memories and quite a decent chap he was/is. Mike Abbott suffered the same career path as me, mostly typecasted as the bad guy, because of his massive shoulders. Don't think I have ever seen Mike in a character friendly role.
I thought I had seen Mike from a distance in KennedyTown recently. We never worked much together, only a few times for a few hours.

In recent interviews, Richard Harrison says he didn't know about the working methods of Godfrey Ho & Joseph Lai at IFD ( paste new shots with gweilohs into an asian movie for international markets). Did you know about this cut & paste editing work when you started to work with them? i mean, did you know your scenes would end paste into an already made korean, taiwanese or pinoy movie? do you think Mr Harrison knew about it?
As for Richard Harrison - yeap his disappointments with Godfrey & Joseph are well founded. None of us ever knew what we were going to shoot, and were briefed on a daily basis. For a guy like Richard with his background, that must have been a tough one to swallow at the time, something they would not get away with these days anymore - having agents in place to co-ordinate and smooth things over whatever creativity producers would come up with last-minute.

You played Richard Harrison's ninja master in Ninja Operation 2: Way of Challenge. This movie was edited in USA as Ninja Strike Force. Did you notice you are credited as Frederick Bresma? I have to admit I didn't recognice you till I have got your pics...really, you look like totally different when you have the beard.
Yeap I used several different names, in order to (1) avoid some triad activities, as well as (2) paying tax on my earnings - which weren't very large - but on tourist visa in those days. In retrospect I should have applied for a proper visa, regardless of knowing how long to stay, which would have guaranteed me a more solid credit.

When we are young - we always choose the easy way out, without considering the future - let along retirement.

Edowan Bersma credited as Frederick Bresma was Richard Harrison's Ninja master in Ninja operation 2: Way to challenge ( aka Ninja strike force)

-The movies you starred at IFD were co-started by Pierre Kirby. Do you remember him? What could you tell us about him?
Do I remember him – ‘haha’ - Pierre was the main guy indeed. Pierre was the more body-build type amongst us, knowing the right moves, hence lasting much longer in the Ninja movie scene. A good guy in general with a fun sense of humour, and quite mature for his age. .

Pierre Kirby punishes Edowan Bersma while IFD technicians are shooting the action

-There was another two guys named Paul John Stanners & Patrick Frbezar who co-starred along with you at IFD ninja / Thriller / action productions. Do you have any memories about them?

We only worked moments together, so we didn’t really get to know each other well. As for the Ninja scene, most of us 10-15 guys were hanging out in the same Humphreys Avenue Guesthouse/ Tsim Sha Tsui – Kowloon, where we had our Monica = Mamasan looking after our where abouts. Sadly this Guesthouse no longer exists.

- In an interview to Paul John Stanners, he said you were one of last people who saw Pierre Kirby in Hong Kong Hyatt hotel before he dissapeared & a black legend started about his fate ( please check this link ). Could you give us some light about this matter?
Yeap it was me who spotted Kirby in the Hyatt afterwards, but failed to confirm this due to a Maze of people between me and him disappearing quickly. Pierre disappeared to the Philippines, on a yacht with friends. Typhoons (=cyclones) were the norm that Summer, leaving little to his fate. When I met with Danny (Thunder of Gigantic Serpent, )Dewey (The Super Master) and others in Korea and Japan years after, no one had heard from Pierre since.

Pierre Kirby jokes to Edowan Bersma during the filming of Crackdown Mission a lost movie from IFD. Only avaliable in German severely cut dvd edition.

-Some "gweilo" actors ("foreign devils" in Cantonese, that is to say "White westerners") told us Chinese crew members or people were not always very friendly with foreigners. What's your opinion about it in your HK movie experience?

Cantonese language & attitude are different from European, American, Australian, South African or other Asian customer friendly attitudes. Cantonese dialect – unlike Japanese – is very straight forward. They tell it as it is. Cantonese as a Chinese dialect is rough sounding, unlike Putonghua (=Mandarin), Thai, Malay and others. Bit like my native Dutch amongst European languages. Only when they sing in Cantonese, everything sounds better, reason why Hong Kong after Ninja/Kung Fu became the entertainment centre of Asia, till Japan, and now Korea as well as Mainland China have taken the lead more recently.

-I love travelling & hiking. Whenever I am in Hong Kong, I am used to hike & visit the filming locations used in the New Territories or Kowloon. Along the years I have searching & found many places that were used for those IFD ninja / action movies. But there is a place I haven't found yet. It is the forest where most of IFD final showdown were shot. I know you also love hiking. Do you remember where that forest is located?
It’s in the New Territories / Kowloon. Sadly some huge residential complex has been built there, reason why you haven’t been able to find it.
the areas where we shot most of the movies varied a lot, because of triad protection money + police rules & regulations, so we moved around a lot. Wu Kau Tang area was frequently used by IFD, as where Tai Po and Fanling more by Filmark. Mai Po and Lok Ma Chau twice at least, eventhough too close to the border, Tin Shui Wai was difficult to get to but used for some major scenes. I have only once recognised a shooting are near Kam tin, others look different now.

How it was working for Filmark international?
Filmark was an unpleasant experience. Had agreed to doing some roles for them - without showing my name in the Credits - ended up facing some real Triads (=Mafia) - so was happy to return to IFD.
Edowan Bersma was not happy at all working for Filmark International!!!

-I know you worked with Jacky Chan in at least 3 movies. Which ones? What can you tell us about Chan? Do you have any memories about filming with Chan?
Yeap but Ionly did 2x with Jackie : The Armour of God – as one of the three BAD monks – and Project A Part II – where I was the Ambassador (my only positive role those days) . Jackie at that time spoke more ‘Nihongo’ (=Japanese) – because of his fan club – than English, so we used translators on the set. He was very hard working, and should now enjoy life a bit more. HKTB (HK Tourism Bureau) is currently using him more as Tourism Ambassador. I owe him some of my humble acting skills – he was fun to work for!

-Taipan was big European production shot around several places including Hong Kong & Spain. How did you get your part on this movie? Any nice memory about it?
Taipan was my BEST job ever! We got paid US$50.- daily, no matter working or not. Did spend over three months with Taipan, In Southern China (my first China entry) Macau and Hong Kong. It opened doors for me, and triggered my interest in PR China – where I have since returned year alter year.

Edowan Bersma ( the second from the right) played a monk in Jackie Chan's top action masterpiece Armour of God

-At the end of the 80's many people who were working in Hong Kong, also ended working in some american productions filmed in countries like Thailand or The Philippines (i.e kickboxers starring jean Claude Van Damme). You got a role in Good morning Vietnam, starring Robin Williams. Could you say something about this? How did you get your role? how was shooting in Thailand? etc etc.
American budgets versus HK budgets were much much larger, hence a much better life as Extra versus the tougher kung fu acting roles in HK. Robin Williams is as funny on set, as off set……a real pro. Did Good Morning Vietnam at the same time as Saigon with Gregory Haines and William Dafoe (spelling?) I believe they have changed the movie title before releasing it, have traed hunting it down on DVD without success.

-What are your best and your worst memories as an actor or an extra?

Balancing fitness with fun, a very difficult match. Being part of a movie scene, requires a social scene of networking, for some only drinking, for others drugs, not a pleasant scene to witness.
He worked with Jackie Chan again in Project A part 2

-With the hindsight, what look do you take at your work in the film industry? Did you ever have a keen interest in it?
After 2 years of working the HK + Asian movie scenes I got this reality check, that one either needs to be handsome or character ugly, in order to make it to Hollywood, Cantowood, Bollywood, or other Asian movie centres like Thailand, Korea or Japan more recently. Reason why I chose Publishing over Entertainment, now my 22 year.

-What is your occupation now?

Started off as a BookLibrarian than Sales Manager - for Asia 2000 (even handling IMF & World Bank serious titles, as well as local studies), than Book Distributor for Asia Publishing Services including Lonely Planet, Art + Film books, after changing to Media TransAsia representing PATA (=Pacific Asia Travel Association) also for Greater China. Moved to consumer publishing for ONE year, opening up the regional market for ESCAPE a travel & lifestyle magazine, as well as music monthly BEATS magazine. These past two years’ I act as’ Regional Media Director for Emphasis Media – working 15+ inflight magazines as well as TVC on board Singapore Airlines, JAL, Aseana, Garuda, MAS, Jet Air, Air India, Vietnam Airways, PAL, Aeroflot, Emirates and Etihad. Here you have it – 22 years in a nutshell.

Thanks so much for sharing your time with me. I wish you the very best luck.
Pleasure my man & wishing you well with your young new family!

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